10 Weird Intensive Gardening Methods That Really Work

There are so many different ways to garden that it would be hard to even list them all. 

We put together this grouping of ten different intensive gardening methods that make the most out of your gardening space, so that you can grow the most food possible with the least amount of hassle.

Have you tried any of these methods? If so, leave a comment at the bottom and tell us about your results!

tire garden

Tire gardening

Do you appreciate the rugged appeal of recycled tires in your garden? Or, do you want a cheap (read: free), shapeable container garden? The steps are simple: carefully cut off the outer rim of a tire using a utility knife. Once you’ve formed that flexible “O,” you can maneuver the tire tread inside out if you prefer to have the smooth, slick innards visible.

By stacking treads on top of one another, the tires become excellent containers for growing potatoes and other rooted plants since the structure provides much-needed growth room. The black surface is ideal for plants that need warm growing conditions.

Used tires are easy to come by and can be molded into non-circular shapes. Simply lodge some wooden logs in the tire to create the desired shape. Check out these step-by-step instructions with photos: http://www.tiregarden.net/

mittlieder method garden

Mittlieder method

The Mittlieder method creatively–and affordably–combines soil-based gardening with hydroponic gardening. This method takes advantage of space, time, and resources and works with both soil beds and raised beds. Apartment dwellers can enjoy this method as much as commercial farmers.

So how does this method differ from other gardening techniques? Plants must be fed 16 essential nutrients, as determined by Dr. Mittlieder himself. In addition, while the soil type isn’t a major factor in gardening, soil distribution is essential for proper irrigation, which he believes to be centralized watering, as opposed to drip irrigation. Plant spacing is also more liberal in the Mittlieder method. Finally, pruning vegetable plants is essential, yet often ignored in other gardening techniques.

For a quick-start guide, see this site: http://growfood.com/

Square foot gardening method

Square foot gardening

The Square Foot Gardening method can be started using only a frame and some dividers. Picture a box divided into smaller squares, each measuring 1-foot by 1-foot. The square foot gardening method focuses on the number of seeds that can be planted within each square box based on the size of the plant. For example, one tomato plant might occupy its own square while oregano can be planted 4 times within a square. Carrot seeds, on the other hand, can be planted 16 to a square. Not sure how big your plant will be? Check the back of your seed packet for spacing information.

Want tips on ideal soil composition for your square foot garden? Visit: http://squarefootgardening.org/square-foot-gardening-method

Keyhole garden

Keyhole gardening

Keyhole gardens provide adequate growing conditions in less-than-adequate environments. Keyhole gardens are named after their shape: they are typically round beds with a pie-slice-shaped aisle for easy access, all built around a circular center compost. These types of garden beds provide the best of several worlds: raised beds allow for regulated soil conditions, the compost center permits rich nutrients to re-enter the soil through recycling, and soil stays nourished via water poured into the compost pile, essentially drought-proofing your crops.

Keyhole gardens are easy to build and can be customized to your liking. Use decorative brick, old wood scraps, cinderblocks, netting, tree logs, or even thick plastic. The framing possibilities are endless and a little composting knowledge is needed. See our own more detailed description of how to make and maintain a keyhole garden.



Who says soil is necessary for gardening? Aquaponics is one of two soil-less gardening methods we highlight. This is an organic gardening system that uses fish waste to nourish plants. This doesn’t mean your plants are submerged, however. A variety of systems exist, including simple trays in which plants sit: their bottoms are hydrated and fertilized by the aquatic ecosystem. Kits are available for purchase and because you get to choose the type of fish involved, children are curious about aquaponic gardening.

Just like a normal fish tank, your aquaponics system will need monitoring and occasional testing, so don’t forget to include your gardener tot in these duties. For an overview of aquaponics and greater starter tips, head to Oregonlive.com

window farm garden

Window Farms   

Perhaps you’ve seen one in a window already: a vertical cascade of hanging vessels–typically halved soda/water bottles–home to soil-less leafy green plants and herbs. The method is simple enough. Plants grow out of the bottle while an air pump (such as those used in fish tanks) circulate liquid nutrients that gently flow down the structure. Sunlight is necessary, but for windows that don’t receive enough light, hanging LED lights will work.

It goes without saying that this method of gardening is ideal for residents with no patch of grass to claim as their own; the method is also dirtless. But first-floor residents beware: you are sure to get curious by-passers peering into your personal space, so consider a privacy curtain. Read about one woman’s window farm initiatives here.

Straw bale

Straw Bale Gardening

You don’t need to live on acres of land to utilize a straw bale garden. Even a small bale (discretely placed, if you prefer) will provide high yields and require little maintenance. Bales are great raised beds: straw collects/disburses moisture and is compostable, which means over time your plants will gain nutrients as the straw decomposes. Plus, the bales retain heat to extend your gardening season even further.

Here’s how it’s done. Before placing your bales, lay some fabric to inhibit weeds from sprouting up through your bale. Lay bales side-by-side if you have more than one, making sure the strings stretch across the sides, not the top. For two weeks, soak and fertilize the bales so they are ready for crops. Finally, plant your seedlings.

Modern Farmer gives more detailed instructions for creating straw bale gardens.

And for all things straw bale? Check out http://strawbalegardens.com/

topsoil garden

Straight-from-the-soil-bag gardening

This method should by no means be considered the lazy way. It’s the ingenious way! Soil bag gardening can be customized to the amount of space you have available. You can even start a soil-bag garden near a window that gets full sun. If you’re a beginner and just want to test your green thumb, go out and pick up one 40-pound bag of top soil.

Instead of spreading that soil in a raised bed or container, simply lay it flat. You’ll cut off the entire top of the packaging, exposing a window of pre-ready soil for your plants. You might think the next step is too easy: plant seedlings at the appropriate time (found on the back of the seed packets).

This method is more than just convenient. You’ll have practically no weeds and, if you choose to continue your gardening adventures, over time the bag will etch an automatic bed outline in your lawn.

For more information, Mother Earth News has a detailed article.

Lasagna garden

Lasagna gardening

It’s as delicious as it sounds: a method of layered vegetable gardening that reduces your workload. Lasagna gardening actually offers a reprieve from mismanaged gardening. This method is ideal if you have let your gardens go wild or have just inherited an unkempt yard.

The lasagna gardening method actually encourages neglect…sort of. Instead of taking the time to clear out unharvested crops, resilient weeds, or dead plants, simply compact them and place a compostable buffer on top: cardboard boxes, newspapers, straw, manure, leaves, or grass will do. Not only will this eliminate unsightly terrain, but you’ll notice that plants you smooshed to smithereens will actually persevere over time. Top off your layered garden with additional seedlings to get an amalgamation of crops: no digging, tilling, or weeding required. 

Learn more with these articles over at Mother Earth News and Organic Gardening Magazine.

no-work gardening

Ruth Stout no-work garden

The second unusual gardening method in our list to be named after a person: the Ruth Stout no-work garden. This method follows the same basis of the last two methods: less digging, soil preparation, weeding, and tilling. Ruth herself used just one fertilizer (cottonseed or soybean meal) and didn’t bother maintaining a compost pile.

Her trick? She kept a thick layer of vegetable mulch on her vegetable and flower gardens. Potential matter includes hay, straw, leaves, pine needles, weeds, garbage and even sawdust. As the mulch rots, soil is enriched and more mulch is added. Her one caveat is to start with an area that has at least an 8”-thick layer of mulch in order to prevent weeds.

Here, Ruth explains her method herself at Mother Earth News.

Creative Commons Photo Credits:

Creative Commons Flickr photo courtesy of Fair Share Chatt
Creative Commons Flickr photo courtesy of Rebecca
Creative Commons Flickr photo courtesy of John Max
Creative Commons Flickr photo courtesy of SCHLT
Creative Commons Flickr photo courtesy of Beth Berry
Creative Commons Flickr photo courtesy of Ars Electronica
Creative Commons Flickr photo courtesy of coconinoco
Creative Commons Flickr photo courtesy of Sam I Am…
Creative Commons Flickr photo courtesy of Carol
Creative Commons Flickr photo courtesy of Megan


10 Weird Gardening Methods that Work!


  1. Ld Thornton says:

    Love the website. Is there an app for this channel ?

  2. I am.trying the hale bale gardening for the first time. I live on the central east coast of Florida and have nothing but sand. I have done raised bed gardens and it is back breaking work to add and amend soil. Hope this works plus it is amending my land.

  3. Lee Ploof says:

    I started out doing the square foot method, it did not work for the veggies I grew. Went to raised beds and it is working out fine. Have 4 beds 4 x 12 and another 4 beds 4 x 8.

    • Gardening Channel says:

      Square foot gardening *is* a raised bed gardening system, isn’t it? Do you mean that the soil recipe didn’t work for you, or the spacing of the plants, or something else?

  4. My square foot garden was a great success when I didn’t have enough sunny space for anything more than a couple of hundred square feet. It grew very well and was attractive enough to keep in the front yard beside the sidewalk.

    When I’ve had a larger garden, I follow the Ruth Stout method fairly closely. We do till it in the spring but most years it’s covered in heavy mulch. I plan to use straw this year. I’ve also made lasagna beds and they worked well, too. Anything that will improve the soil and keep in moisture is a benefit in our mid-Atlantic area.

    • Gardening Channel says:

      I’m going to recommend Ruth Stout to my mom. It seems like it would work really well for her garden that is in the harsh central Texas sun and heat, because the straw would act as a nice, cooling mulch and improve the soil at the same time.

  5. Never ever use Monsanto products…Miracle Grow being one of them. Monsanto is killing bees w/ their toxic products and killing our food system. Their corporate goal is to own every seed on the planet.

  6. Some very great gardening conecpts.
    i especially love the ‘Lasagna gardening’. I’ve been experimenting with it for some time already and it really saves a LOT of work!
    Thanks from switzerland.

  7. I have used a slightly modfied method of square foot gardening for years. Don’t just use a 4 X 4 square. All my beds are 4′ wide and as long as the area they are in permits. Never stepped in. The 4′ also accomodates the chicken tractors that are run up and down them through the winter.

    • Gardening Channel says:

      I use the Square Foot Gardening soil recipe (1/3 compost, 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 peat or coir), but don’t use the rest of the method.

  8. Conewago says:

    I’ve used a combination of Ruth Stout’s No Work method and raised bed gardening with success. I haven’t had a garden for a few years, but it’s the only way I garden when I do.

    I don’t build frames for the beds. To start, I dig a bed 4′ wide bed, by however long I want it and work compost into it. Then I build up a raised bed by raking soil away from the edges into the middle and leveling it. This leaves a trough around the perimeter for drainage with a raised portion in the middle.

    I cover it with a thick layer of straw. Instead of planting in rows, I pull back the straw covering the section I want to seed and sow the seeds in the moist soil where the straw was. As the seedlings emerge, I work the straw back in between them, adding more straw as they grow,

    I’ve turned poor soil into good and never had to water the garden, except to wet down a new layer of straw so it stayed put.

  9. I have been using the Mittleier method for 7 years with great success.

  10. I’ve been using straw bales gardening for a few years now, with great success for tomatoes and cucumbers. I didn’t have any luck with ‘frosting’ bales with top soil for lettuce and carrots, so will be planting things like that, as well as beans and peas in my pallet garden.

  11. Margo Pri says:

    I am currently using the right out of the bag method for my tomato plants and since the plants are a bit young still, I am using some red plastic cups to keep them help up strong and tall. Just put holes into the bag, 3 of them, cut a whole in the bottom of the cup, slice it down the side from the hole to the edge, slide it around the plant gently, curl the cup together till you can put the ‘top’ of the cup into the hole in the bag and then let it reopen up and push down slightly. Easy peasy. Keep watered and watch those babies grow and flourish! :-)

  12. surprised not to see the Rain Gutter Grow System on this list… check it out. Search for “Larry Hall RGGS” on you tube… it’s pretty amazing stuff.

  13. joyce hilburn-russ says:

    I am doing the tires and a raised bed with center blocks. My gardening this year is excellent. Thanks for all you tips an d help. God Bless and Happy gardening!

  14. Rita Wright says:

    My potatoes grew very nice in the tires, a lot better than I thought they would. I now have raised gardens made of landscaping bricks. You can have round, oval or square gardens. Plant what ever in the holes between the bricks. I have Spanish onions in mine. Chives grow real good in a large flower pot.

  15. I love these plantings where you don’t have to have a yard or green thumb I even get excited when a avocado pit starts blooming – first time it was by accident from under the refrigerator.

  16. Jeanine Tinker says:

    Our camping getaway here in Missouri is directly on a small 6 acre lake. Growing veggies there is a challenge due to poor soil, critters and the inability to water on a regular basis. So, in the spirit of using what ya got, I created a floating garden! (wish I knew how/or if could post a pic here) Doubled up 2- 1.5″thick by 28″x28″wide pieces of insulation foam board and cut a hole in the middle where I placed a large plastic pot so only about 2″ were below water, added chunks of foam from the cutout to about 1/3 up from the bottom, then pulled strips of cloth wicks thru the drainage holes, up past the foam into the top layer of soil/mulch mixture and planted a volunteer tomato from my home garden. Then I attached a large round tomato cage upside down on the rim with heavy pinch paper clips. It has placidly floated, flourished and flowered there, tethered between 2 young willows about 4 foot from the bank, since 6/1/14- at least it was, haven’t been there for 2 weeks. The only real concern I have is that it may get too top heavy- but it’s all a learning curve, right? And next season I will try a 4 potter- Toms and Melons maybe! OH-added plus- it makes a great fish cover!

  17. Tires contain petroleum products and other chemicals that leach into soil as the tires break down. Plants can take up those chemicals, which may include heavy metals. I personally would recommend against using tires to grow food crops, or be placed any where near where food crops may be grown.

    Use them for unique flowers and other decorative plant beds in the front yard, but for or near edibles beds.

  18. Has anyone tried hugelkultur? I am in the process of building a bed now.

    • Dave, I’m doing a modified version; raised bed with logs in the bottom and only a few inches of soil on top. I’m not sure of the outcome since I don’t have my seedlings in the soil yet.

  19. victoria says:

    I did raised beds and tires for planters for the non edibles. It turned out great! I’m a teacher in Phoenix. My 1st graders managed 3 large raised garden boxes and several tires. We grew vegetables in the boxes and glowers in the tires. I would love to share photos if there is an interest. I love the square foot garden idea and want to try it out.

  20. I quit using tires in 70 because of fears about contamination of plants and soil.
    Switched from rows to weed free planting after Dick Raymonds Joy of gardening was published in 82.
    I have modified my gardening over time.
    I grow onions, lettuces, garlics, beets and similar plants close as D I can did.
    I plant different squash in rings of 4 to five plants.
    I plant my tomatoes 5 feet apart leaving room to rotate .
    Every thing is mulched around the plants and where you walk.
    Weeding in minimal.

    • Rita Wright says:

      Can you please tell me what weed free planting is. I seem to be weeding all the time even tho I have raised gardens.
      Thank you.

  21. Ferryboat George says:

    You didn’t include chip gardening. http://www.backtoedenfilm.com/

  22. I either have done or am currently doing most of these. For home gardens in rural settings, flexibility and creativity are fun and make for a great gardening experience. http://Www.nanasranchblog.com

  23. I was told tyres leach toxins into soil, so not good for edible plants

  24. Mamabear says:

    I have tried lasagna gardening – It really works! It’s best to set it up in the fall so you will have rich soil for spring planting, but I have done it in the spring. Weed free and healthy plants!

  25. Thank you for including Square Foot Gardening, but I wanted to let everyone know . . . in Square Foot Gardening the grid is just LAID ON TOP of the growing medium. The raised bed itself is not separated (LOL or it would be called Cubed Foot Gardening). This allows the plants to share root space with its neighbors.

    Kim Roman ~ Certified SFG Instructor
    Square Foot Gardening 4 U

  26. I’ve use most of these methods but question the line about, “The steps are simple: carefully cut off the outer rim of a tire using a utility knife.”
    Maybe I’ve been blessed with tough tires but mine need a jigsaw to cut through.

  27. No one else concerned that the tires would leech some horrible things into the soil where your food is growing???

  28. I liked what you had here but you need to include Hugelkultur beds next time and perhaps guerrilla gardening.

  29. barbara funk says:

    I am sort of doing a little of each combining what works
    from each idea.
    this year I have discovered diatomaceous earth for ants
    did the trick and trying on earwigs seems to be working
    my pole beans are giving it their best effort.
    tabasco and water spray for squirrels . love the lasagna method
    do not disturb the soil structure and add the kitchen sink.
    great success with composting again I add everything I can get my hands on and throw in plenty of manure this gets the pile cooking
    and ages the manure so is not toxic.
    speaking of toxic why the heck would anyone use a dam tire in their
    beautiful garden I am not a fan of any thing not organic in my garden
    does not makes since to me. a garden is a thing of beauty . the raised beds when amended with what ever you have will be very little work. I pile on the works leaves, grass, wood ash, cardboard compost
    Epsom salts ground up egg shells and cedar mulch because I like the way it looks and remember plant as many flowers as veggies.
    balance is the key it all works together. do not use miracle grow
    why would you. if you are that lazy go to the store. I am 68 year old lady and do not have the time or the patience to put up with
    the people producing Round Up it is patented as an antibiotic
    need I say more. I attended the first earth day at orange coast college Ralph Nader was a speaker that year. last April was in Yosemite Valley for earth day and their 150 anniversary, a great leap forward.
    keep growing your own food, catching your own water
    and live modestly, my goal is to amend my soil enough to not have to water, the water I use is rain water as much as possible, your plants will thank you. am trying an in ground water jug called an OLLA
    leaches the water slowly to your plants, so far very impressed by this method. I have even piled my neighbors logs to push the water flow around their garage I am sure as they rot they will absorb more and more water. no one lives there so guess I am it as they are
    on the down hill side. I am sure every one has a diff take, depends on where you live and what you deal with good luck to all. just keep gardening, learning and laughing. because the critters will get most of it.

  30. Janis Corson says:

    I am doing 4 straw bale raised beds this year, for Tomatoes, Peppers, Onions, Sweetcorn and brassicas and so far so good. I live in the UK and so far it hasn’t been the best spring or early summer…..No rain during the spring and very hot weather and rain and chillier temps this last month….but everything I have planted in the straw bale beds is growing so fast I was really surprised. I used weed matting at the bottom then logs and cardboard, then topped it off with manure and compost. Fingers crossed

  31. Kellyann Kio says:

    Back to Eden gardening


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